So Many Books

November 6, 2012 at 11:49 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading

Author: Sara Nelson

Publisher: Putnam

Length: 242 pages

Ironically, when I find myself so overwhelmed by my mountainous TBR pile I become crippled and damn near illiterate, I find that the perfect cure is a book about books.  More specifically, a book with lots of lists and descriptions and lengthy lamenting of how many books there are in the world that are begging my attention.  So my latest reading slump (if anyone but me were keeping tabs, they’d see I only read two books – other than children’s books – in the whole of October) I picked up a copy of Sara Nelson’s quasi-memoir  detailing a year in the life of a professional book reviewer.

It’s short and sweet, and has a lovely methodical layout.  Each chapter is dated, and dedicated to a week of time (I am assuming, as the whole purpose of the project was to read a book a week and write a bit on her life as she read said book, but I didn’t count the chapters and they are un-numbered).  It was a pleasant read, I enjoyed the simplicity and quickness of it.  But it also made me think, I found myself journaling after I finished every chapter.

She has a little segment on Then & Now, discussing the great reads of her adolescence and what she thought the first time she read it versus how she feels as a grown up and I found myself solidifying my plan to have my kiddo journal and document her own reading experiences throughout childhood to remember the titles and authors as well as her true feelings on the subject matter.  Of course, we’ll keep it age appropriate, at first she will only be able to summarize briefly, but then she’ll have proof of the process of change and growth as a literary being.  I’ve journaled my whole life, but not always with purpose.  Purpose is a delightful thing to have.  The ability to later compare your thoughts and feelings about literary ventures with such clarity would be such a treasure.

The chapter reminded me of my re-reading of The Great Gatsby earlier this year, and how much I truly enjoyed it.  It reminded me of a need to re-read Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, which I always hated, but feel I was just too immature and boisterous to care about a man fishing.  Typically, my Then & Nows are quite vague, but with all this recent documentation of my reading life, I’ll have a better view of my lit-brain when I’m 80.

But above all, the chapter reminded me that there is value in my re-reading.  Often, my TBR pile is so high, I feel guilty when compelled to read something I have already read.  Should I really be doing this? I wonder.  I know Persuasion nearly by heart, shouldn’t I be tackling Bauer’s Ancient History, a book I’ve been slowly pecking through, and loving it, for almost a year and a half now.  Shouldn’t I be immersed in George MacDonald’s Lilith, a book I’ve had for ages, but keep only relishing in the first chapter and never moving on – over and over again?  The list goes on.  And yes, there is a physical list in my own writing, with not nearly enough checked off titles because I continually pick up others.

Then Sara Nelson says, “If you want to make the book god laugh, show him your reading list.”  I nearly died.  YES!  However, every so many weeks, I find myself sitting down to write a new one anyway.  I find them therapeutic, refreshing, even mysterious as I tend to write them haphazardly allowing my subconscious to take over and just see what spilled out of the ink pen next.  What has been hiding in the recesses of my bookshelf that my brain remembers is calling my name?  I think that’s why book lovers revel in their lifestyle so much.  Whether they care a lick about the mystery genre, every book lover enjoys a good mystery.

Being a patron of libraries and used bookstores, I often find myself in the middle of a mystery.  Whether it be a random scribble in the margins: Secret meeting in the place at 8, password candles, or some such nonsense, highlighting or dog-eared pages, when a book shares owners all sorts of questions arise.  Most specifically, for me, I often find stashed bookmarks in the books I read.  Sometimes at the start of a chapter, or in the middle of randomness where someone either wanted to savor a line or simply gave up reading the book; sometimes it’s a receipt or a thank you note, birthday cards, and even checks… things people stashed and forgot about, or possibly the item just slid into the pages when the book was stashed into a purse or bag.  I often wonder which of these is the story for whatever scrap I find.

SMB,SLT had a small post-it stuck between pages 54 and 55, the beginning of February 27th, chapter: The Clean Plate Book Club.  Did they run out of time and have to turn a nearly over due book back into the library? Did they give up because they hated it? Or give up out of principle, because the chapter is about seasoned readers having the power to give up on a book if they aren’t interested in it, wanting to prove something to themselves?  Did they simply mark the chapter because the ideas within its pages spoke to them?  We may never know.  It keeps the mind reeling, though.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea that mature readers, seasoned readers, are the only ones who can give up on a book part way.  Nelson describes it as a reader’s rite of passage.

“Allowing yourself to stop reading a  book –  at page 25, 50, or even less frequently, a few chapters from the end – is […] the literary equivalent of a bar mitzvah or a communion, the moment at which you look at yourself and announce: Today I am an adult.  I can make my own decisions.”

Funny, I always thought of it as something slackers do in high school.  Post motherhood, I thought it was something I did because I killed brain cells while being pregnant and having a baby.  Quitting kills me every time, but there are times that I feel compelled to do it, mostly because I either plan to finish it when I’m in a different mood, or I discover the author is what Paul Collins would describe as someone who writes ‘unequivocal crap.’

It seems, then, I am a late bloomer in, yes, even reading.  I thought at least I had escaped that title in one thing in life, having been a very early reader.  But apparently not.

The most interesting chapter for me, though, where I might leave a small post-it myself, is March 15th: Eating Crows.  It’s all about recommending books to friends and how it can possibly damage the friendship.  What if one likes it and the other doesn’t? What does this say about each person? How does this new information you have gathered about your so-called friend change the friend dynamic.

This is where I found myself saying, ‘Oh, hell.’  I’ve been around book nerds, book people, bookstore staff, customers, friends, family, the whole shebang, and this is the first I’ve heard about this dilemma.  I recommend books to people all day, every day.  It’s my favorite thing to do.  If I recommend a book it is because I either liked it, or I truly think you may like it.  May is a big word in this sentence.  If you don’t like it, that’s your own business, but I’d love to discuss why and learn more about the world around me.  It isn’t going to make me not want to be friends with you, that’s just shallow and dumb… even though I may secretly think that what you read is shallow and dumb, I know that somewhere someone is thinking the same thing about what I read – so why should it matter?

The next chapter about borrowing or loaning books is also silly to me.  I don’t loan it if I’m not ok with not getting it back – usually.  If that’s not the case, then I’ll tell you PLEASE PLEASE GET THIS BACK TO ME one day, and that only happens with someone who has already established a good track record.  If I don’t say that, you may bring it back, or just consider it a gift if you fall in love with it.  I don’t care.  I have plenty of books, and multiple copies of some of my favorites.  A book will not ruin our friendship unless you write one about me that is awful, spilling the beans that you’ve actually hated me all these years but haven’t said so because… Then, we might have issues.  That hasn’t happened to me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.  And no, I don’t have anyone in mind, I’m just used to being surprised by what people think of me.

All in all, Nelson you served your purpose.  I have a new list of titles to tackle, nothing you mentioned in your book because we have entirely different reading tastes.  That’s not true.  They are similar in the way a Venn diagram is similar.  Not a Venn diagram, more like if there are four quadrants of reading (I, II, III, and IV), and I & II are two different kinds of book snobs and III & IV are polar opposites of I & II who read varying kinds of ‘unequivocal crap’, we are readers I & II.  Still, we may not have the same, identical tastes, and in real life you would probably never want to be my friend, but I enjoyed your book and it has made me voracious for the piles and piles on my own shelves again.

Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. jennifernon said,

    Wow your post made me want to read this book! I’ve got a massive pile of TBR books myself and can totally relate! Your post mirrors much of my sentiments actually. 🙂 Cheers.

  2. Stephanie said,

    Agreed — I totally want to read this book now! My TBR pile is through the roof!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: